27 October 2011- CLEER Guest Lecture: The experiences of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU Council-a legal appraisal
CLEER and the Embassy of the Hungary Republic The Hague co-organized this lecture by Prof. Dr. Jenö Czuczai, Legal Service, Council of the European Union.
Respondent: Prof. Dr. Marc Maresceau, Director of the Institute for European Legal Studies and Jean Monnet Professor of EU law at Ghent University
Please download the biographies of Prof. Dr. Jenö Czuczai and Prof. Dr. Marc Maresceau below.
The role of every Presidency in office in the successful working of the Council of the EU is crucial, although, beyond any doubt, it is changing over the time, and, of course, in the context of the changes to the founding Treaties. This changing character of the Presidency role is especially significant after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, since it has substantially changed the Presidency functions. Hungary, which delivered her first EU Presidency, after the 2004 accession to the EU, in the first half of 2011, being in trio-presidency with Spain and Belgium, also had to face all the challenges (including the legal ones), brought about by the Lisbon Treaty in this respect.
These legal challenges can be summarized as follows: (i) the enhanced role of the Presidency as the negotiator, on behalf of the Council, with the European Parliament under the so-called ordinary legislative procedure; (ii) the remaining role for the Presidency under EU CFSP, in particular in replacing the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, at her request, in contacts with third partners (eg. at Association Council meetings or Partnership and Cooperation Council meetings or for example at the ACP Ministerial Summit etc) and in her capacity as President of the Foreign Affairs' Council; (iii) the role of the Presidency in office vis-à-vis the other EU institutions, especially the contacts and the cooperation between the President of the General Affairs Council and the President of the European Council after Lisbon - which, from a legal point of view, is also a new dimension, brought about by the Lisbon Treaty and, for sure, deserves for more attention; (iv) and finally it is an important legal question for every Presidency of the Council in office that whether or not has still there remained any role for the rotating Presidency in terms of the EU external representation after Lisbon (especially concerning areas falling under either shared competences or exclusive Member States' competences)?
However, the main and classical role of the Presidency in office has remained unchanged even after Lisbon: namely that the Presidency should be a honest broker, and should be neutral, which means that, during the 6 months period, every Presidency is primarily focusing on the fulfilment of the priorities of their respective Presidency programmes (but, after Lisbon, already with paying attention to the so-called 18 months trio Presidency programmes too) and not pursuing purely national interests. The main priorities of the first ever Hungarian Presidency were: in general to see after the Presidency a stronger Europe with a human touch, and in specific terms in particular: the closure of the accession negotiations with Croatia, the amendment to Article 136 TFEU, the adoption of the so-called six-pack (the six legislative proposals) on economic governance, the extension of the Schengen area towards Romania and Bulgaria, the adoption of the first ever Danube Macro-region Strategy of the EU, the adoption of the first ever EU Framework Strategy on roma-integration, or for example the launching of an enhanced cooperation relating to the European patent issue etc. Like every Presidency, Hungary should have also handled a lot of unexpected dossiers like eg. what has happened in North Africa, in particular in Lybia, where there has been no Union delegation, which could have represented the EU during the civil war etc. The Hungarian Presidency was also a Parliament-friendly presidency and aimed at reaching progress in resolving the pending institutional and legal issues between the Council and the Parliament (from comitology issues after Lisbon, over the problems relating to correlation tables, access by MEPs to classified information of the Council, involvement of MEPs in negotiations of international agreements with third countries, until the signing issue of the act establishing the annual EU budget etc.).
It is generally believed that the Hungarian Presidency was a successful Presidency of the EU Council, a fantastic Team-work, which, however, claimed also for legal creativity and solid legal solutions in order that finally compromises could be found ( like eg. the notion of reversed QMV in the six-pack, the special monitoring legal technique in the Croatian Accession Treaty or in terms of the first ever application of the simplified treaty-revision procedure ( Article 48(6) TEU) etc.).
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